Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hera's veil

HSF challenge 18 is Poetry in Motion, and when I think poetry I automatically think Homer.  In this case I'm thinking of the passage from book XIV of the Iliad where Hera is getting dressed up for the night so she can pull a fast one on Zeus.  She completes her ensemble with a newly made white veil that shines like the sun:

κρηδμν δ' φπερθε καλψατο δα θεων
καλ νηγατέῳ: λευκν δ' ν ἠέλιος ς
          -Iliad, book XIV

Nice and transparent, just like the Akrotiri picture.

To figure out what a Bronze Age Greek veil might look like, I used the veiled dancer fresco from Akrotiri.  The fact that the Iliad was written down in its current form almost a thousand years after the Akrotiri frescoes were painted isn't actually a problem, because the Iliad is set in the Bronze Age and contains plenty of Bronze Age elements.  For example, warriors in the Iliad have massive tower-like shields which were long since obsolete by the time the poem was written down, and these tower shields are shown in the Akrotiri frescoes.

Veiled virgin:73 x 100 = 300 euro
The picture I based my veil on.  Image found here.

The Akrotiri veil is yellow, of course, while Hera's is white.  This isn't surprising - yellow wouldn't be appropriate for Hera.  Yellow was associated with unmarried women in ancient Greece, and Hera is (among other things) the goddess of marriage.  I did keep the blue borders at each end and the little carnelian beads, because a plain white rectangle is boring, but I had to guess at the size of the veil.  I settled on 200 centimeters by 90 centimeters based on the fresco.

The stripes at each end of the veil could either have been woven into the fabric, or stitched on.  I tend to think they represent a decorative band that was separate from the main fabric and stitched into place, which seems to have been a common way of decorating Minoan and Mycenaean clothes.  Allow me to refer you to my previous blog post, where I talk about weaving a sample of decorative band from Tyrins.

I didn't weave bands for Hera's veil.  I was already intending to sew some 300 carnelian beads onto it and was uneasily aware that I wouldn't enjoy the process.  Instead I stitched two stripes of blue silk taffeta to the ends of the veil.  You do often get plain bands in a contrasting colour, especially in Mycenaean art.

When I sewed the bands on I made a really interesting discovery: the blue silk is stiffer than the white gauze, and it holds out the ends of the veil when they hang down.  Without this stiff edging the fabric would just bunch up.  This is exactly what we see in the picture from Akrotiri, and is another reason why I think the picture shows separate cloth bands stitched to the ends of the veil.

HSF details...

The Challenge: Poetry in Motion

Fabric: Two meters of white silk gauze and scraps of the same blue silk taffeta I used on the Akrotiri dress.  See this previous post for a summary of evidence for silk use in the Bronze Age Aegean.

Pattern: None.  It's a rectangle.

Year: The Iliad isn't set in a specific year, but the Akrotiri fresco I based the veil on dates from 1650 to 1550 BCE.

Notions: Silk thread and lots of 3mm carnelian beads.

How historically accurate is it?  Well, it probably isn't too bad, although the silk comes from a different type of moth to the ones they had in the Aegean.  One thing that's almost certainly not accurate is the small rolled hems along each side.  The original would have been woven to the desired width, but the selvages of my silk were very clearly the product of a modern jet loom and at least little rolled hems are plausible for the period.

Hours to complete: Maybe 8 or so.  I lost count.

First worn: In front of the mirror to see how it draped.  I can neither confirm nor deny that I made a tit of myself posing like the Akrotiri girl during this process.

Total cost: I think about $32.  I can't remember how much the beads were, but I think they were somewhere around $12. 

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